A Different Frontier for the Bread Makers: Bread For Dogs

(Translated by Ayça Karcı and Ece Kılıçarslan)

We have been working on this bread for a long time and it was our first focus in 2021. We are sure that you will be very interested. During our research many things surprised us… The only thing we are not surprised about is that Canadians have researched these breads before us.

This is Diyarbakir Dicle Altay village, formerly known as Hopek… The importance of this village for our bakery is very, very big. The Darmstadt and Pasto brands have become so popular thanks to the people of this village because so many of our masters or masters we have trained are from this village.

Remzi is also from Hopek and he is my peer. We worked a lot together. Now he has his own bakery, and he is a very good colleague of us. When making bread, the bakery masters do not forget to include two things in the process: 1. Tea, 2. Chat. One day, we were chatting with Remzi while baking bread. When he saw the flourless, unleavened bread that we made, he said, “Hakan, it looks like a dog bread we have.” I immediately said, “Dog bread? No way! I swear this bread is not that bad,  it is rather good.” I was very surprised when he said, “No, don’t get me wrong. “We also make bread for dogs, “What do you mean? Do you make a special bread for dogs?” I said right away. “Of course, you look after so many dogs while shepherding, what will they eat?”. Because I was ignorant about this, I said, “Is there no leftovers?” Remzi immediately started to snicker, “Hakan, what leftovers will be enough for all these dogs?” Then it was up to me to go over this very interesting bread from the dough to the baking.

(Photo by https://www.dunya.com/kose-yazisi/merterdeki-fabrikayi-kapatip-koyunun-kaderini-degistirdi/410886)

I mentioned about this bread to İlhan Abi (big brother in Turkish, often used as an expression of respect for people that are not related by blood) at an event, one of Anatolia’s sons, whose conversation and wisdom I respect greatly.  I said “Abi, do you know that there is a bread for dogs in Diyarbakir?”. He smiled immediately. He said, “You’re asking about the dog bread,” and we had a very nice conversation which started like “Here is the deal”. If there it wasn’t for the pandemic, I would have gone to make these breads with him. The things he told me were very similar to what Remzi told me.

I immediately called Ahmet Abi to see if these breads were available in Konya. Ahmet Abi calls himself Shepherd Ahmet and he really used to be a shepherd until last year, but I think we should define this Abi, who has many traits of character from a poet to a collector, as a well-rounded human being…  We had a long conversation with Ahmet Abi as well since exchanging messages was not enough. I have always listened to what he said with amazement. You should listen to the relationship between shepherds and dogs via Ahmet Abi’s naive expression, it’s completely a different world…

Here is what he wrote in his message: Yes, this is a slightly unknown subject… The dogs of village shepherds spend most of their lives chasing sheep on an empty stomach, day and night. When the shepherd goes to the pasture, the donkey’s bag contains dough balls made of barley flour for the dogs. Each dog will have a dough piece in the same size of an orange, and the dog will have to make the best of it for about 1.5 hours until the herd returns home. When the herd returns to the village, their dogs go to the troughs next to the corrals. When the shepherd returns from the pasture exhausted, he prepares the mash dog food and gives it to the dogs. Barley flour and water. It is prepared in the form of yogurt and given to the dogs. This is dog’s breakfast, dinner and lunch. When the herd goes to the pasture again in the evening, that dough piece is given at night again. Dogs protect the herd on an empty stomach. Most herd owners are cruel in this regard…

I immediately called veterinarian Bülent Abi to check if there is something similar in Bursa. He smiled on the phone and then immediately listed the written sources for me by giving examples. He also said, “My dear Hakan, this subject is not well known, let’s have a little chat.” Those who follow me know about Bülent Abi. He has a wonderful farm in Kırıntı, one of the mountain villages of Iznik, and lives with his animals. We had a long conversation with him too. The only thing that hasn’t changed was my astonishment. As I talked to these beautiful people, I realized that Anatolian people do not see dogs as a garbage disposal machine or as a creature that uses human waste. Geography, climate and financial situation are very important factors in the nutrition of dogs, but they are so important for those who live with them that as they think of their dogs before themselves. As for the written sources, Güvener said in his book that dogs are actually carnivores, but Anatolian shepherd dogs have a genetic structure that is prone to feeding on grains. While talking about this type of bread and mash dog foods in all written sources, he mentions that it is not such a valuable food, that it is something like sustenance in cows, and that such a practice occurs due to the poverty in the village.

However, in our conversation with an important academician, he explained that a world-famous Canadian food producer was astonished when he examined these breads during his research in Anatolia, and he said that they were very surprised by the fiber content after the analysis, and that they focused on how it was made. Isn’t it really surprising that shepherds also find such a result close to the formulas that those scientists obtained by working in the laboratory? Dogs, like humans, cannot consume grains raw. Raw dough, especially if it is leavened, causes serious problems. Due to this reason, dog mash food is made with boiling water, but especially in summer, it is not given too much. Thus, they make dough for this from flour that has not been sifted and coarsely ground, which is usually barley flour.

The procedure is as above if the dough is to be cooked, but if it is not, the flour is roasted at the beginning. Also, if there are whey, cottage cheese, bone broth etc. they are included in the dough at the beginning. Sugar is definitely not involved. Anatolian people found a very ingenious method for baking these breads.

(Photo by https://cahidesultan.net/2012/07/02/odun-atesinde-katmer-ve-yufka-ekmegi/)

You can see that they use phyllo dough pan (sac in Turkish) to bake the bread slowly or even to dry it at the end. In fact, this method is also used when cooking phyllo dough in some regions, especially if the pan is new. However, breads are dried as much as rusks are dried, and then they are bagged. In other words, THE ANCESTOR OF DRIED FOOD HAS BEEN MADE IN ANATOLIA FOR A VERY LONG TIME.

In our conversations with Ahmet Abi, he said “Shepherd dogs do not eat the food given by another person except their owner. He also mentioned that “If a wolf chokes a sheep from the herd they protect, they certainly do not eat the dead sheep when their owner gives the dead body to them by cutting into pieces”, “Believe me dear Hakan, it is possible to see the sadness in their eyes. They do not eat it willingly. Those animals do not hesitate to eat if you put 5 kgs of meat in front of them but they will literally cry when they eat the sheep under their protection.” he said… So, shouldn’t we now make some bread for our friends?

İt Ekmeği (Dog Bread)

Ingredients:

  • 15 g bran
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon
  • 200 g barley flour
  • 120 g whole wheat flour
  • 30 g cornmeal
  • 30 g olive oil
  • 250 ml of water
  • 2 g yeast

Recipe:

  1. Whole meal flour takes a lot of water, so we should not exceed the amount of water stated in the ingredients and make a slightly hard dough.
  2. We should make the dough by kneading.  The dough will be dried anyway, so it will be better if it is not slimy.
  3. We rest the dough for at least 15 minutes without covering so that we can watch it more easily.
  4. We roll out the dough nicely.
  5. We prepare butter and anise seeds to spread on the dough we have rolled out… for some reason, dogs like this smell of anise.
  6. The dough must be paper-thin. We spread the butter and sprinkle the anise.
  7. We cut the dough into strips and twist. Ours looks very twisty, doesn’t it?
  8. We wait after shaping for 30 minutes but if you prefer, you can throw it into the heated oven right away.
  9. Bake at 150 degrees until it is dry.
  10. It took 20 minutes in our oven. (Here is a fun fact: lullaby-like sounds can calm dogs)

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